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Look after yourself and your health – lessons from my battle with cancer

In our latest member voice article, PDA Regional Committee member, Haris Nemani encourages everyone to prioritise their health. Haris also shares his personal experience of being diagnosed with cancer and the valuable lessons he learned during his journey.

Thu 29th February 2024 The PDA

It all started with a phone call on a sunny afternoon. I answered a call from my GP. She said she was ringing regarding the chest X-Ray I had in the morning. They found a big lump and if I didn’t hear anything back in the next week regarding a CT scan, I should call the surgery. I then went to the surgery to get a copy of the X-Ray report and read ‘highly likely malignancy.’ This was when it hit me. I can picture the report and where the word malignancy was on the paper to this day. It was a big shock, and it came with no warning, it was just a cough, only this time it had lasted a bit longer.

As I was walking back from the surgery, I started getting flashbacks of everything, it went as far back as I could remember. Everything I did and everything I did not do. Everything I was worried or stressed about or thought about before had no meaning anymore. The world felt blank and empty. I started questioning why did I do everything I did and why hadn’t I cared about my health? The long drives to work, the breakfasts and dinners in the car, the studies, the stress of work, the finances, the time I didn’t spend with my young family, everything I loved but never got a chance to do as I was chasing one thing after another in the world. How rational this was and if anything had actually contributed to my ill health didn’t matter at that moment.

I couldn’t believe this was happening to me: chemotherapy was always something others had, it wasn’t something for myself. I grew up playing chess and my favourite gambit is known as the ‘Traxler Counterattack.’ It was almost ingrained in my life philosophy to always have a plan B and a counterattack if life doesn’t go the way I planned. For the first time, I didn’t have a counterattack. I never thought of this, I didn’t plan for it.

After a couple of weeks of uncertainty on diagnosis and treatment and spending most of it shivering under a blanket, it was confirmed as a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This was followed by a year of chemotherapy and radiotherapy during the Covid-19 pandemic which made things even harder. It was difficult. It was a constant reminder of how life can change and deteriorate so quickly. After months of treatment, I was told I was in remission – this is something I cherish and hope and pray stays that way.

It was a difficult journey. I learnt from it. In the words of Rumi, ‘what hurts you, blesses you.’ I learnt how you can find peace in small things in life. I learnt to be content with what I have. I learnt to cherish those small moments in life. Kicking a ball, going for a walk, having a coffee, reading a book, finding peace in prayers, saying hello to a friend, and not chasing a career all the time are things I value a lot now. I now understand what the phrase ‘money doesn’t bring happiness’ means.

I learnt to be grateful and content with what I have and not what I would like to have. I am writing this not only to say how life is precious but also as a reminder to look after yourself and your health. Value what you have and do what is actually important to you. Be kind to yourself.

I am thankful for the support I received from the charity Blood Cancer UK, family, friends, total strangers and, above all, the fantastic NHS. No amount of money could have bought me the care I received from NHS.

By Haris Nemani, PDA Regional Committee member

Cancer and the law

The law considers cancer a disability.

In England, Scotland and Wales, the Equality Act replaced previous anti-discrimination laws, bringing them together under one piece of legislation in 2010. This included the Disability Discrimination Act. The Equality Act applies to people with cancer or those who have had cancer in the past. All cancers are included and people are protected under the Equality Act from the time they’re diagnosed with cancer.

In Northern Ireland, the Disability Discrimination Act still applies to people with cancer.

This legal protection means it would be discrimination if someone is treated less favourably than other people (who do not have cancer) because they have cancer, or for reasons connected to the cancer. That would be discrimination.

Members who have been diagnosed with cancer and believe they may be being discriminated against should contact the PDA Member Support Centre.

Learn more

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